These wrecks lie undisturbed by greedy to artifacts divers. Smell of wormwood at sunset. Wailing of turtledoves in green quarters of Yalta and Simferopol. And grave silence of ancient columns protruding from sandy cliffs. It is a bit like California, if California would have several millennia of history. It is almost like California, but no overcrowding, often more a desert, than even a steppe. It is Crimea, and there is much more to it, but...
We don’t want to fight, but!
By Jingo if we do –
We’ve got ships, we’ve got men,
And the money too!
Note that “but!” here serves as a cue to a clap of hands and/or stomp of boots or beer steins, while the rest goes in a light mood of an operetta, which, by and large, it is. If song accompanied by a dance (or vice versa), it would be fun to dance it in a single rank, hands or even elbows twined together, like The Riverdance does it quite often on stage.
We don’t want to fight, BUT! ...
This beautiful song comes from 1878, and it anonymously addresses Russia as an adversary. I am not sure what that conflict of 1878 was about. Lord Tennyson’s Light Brigade ran its memorable charge in 1854, and although Sevastopol was taken yet it all went for nothing. Half century later, in 1918, the tables had turned. Russia was waiting with tears and prayers for Crimean deployment of British troops. It was Britain’s obligation under the articles of The Entente, yet it never came. Instead came Red Army and it had its own songs to dance with:
Aeh apple, apple,
Where you roll about?
Satan‘ll take you in
And you will not get out…
So what it was about then, in 1878, what was the adversity? Was it because of South Africa, for Russia had supported Boers? I am not sure. Yet one thing is certain: Crimean Peninsula often was and still can be a casus belli.
It seems like out of various geographic formations peninsulas specially attract warmongering politicians. Why this is so? Is it in the tainting shapes of peninsular cartography, which often looks like genitals? Do those oblong shapes subconsciously perhaps but still challenge alpha males sweating over maps in war rooms? Crimea, Korea, Indochina, Crimea, Korea … but, let’s go back to old Jingo. Here is a quote from G.K. Chesterton, a writer of unsurpassable wit:
“It may be said with rough accuracy that there are three stages in the life of a strong people. First, it is a small power, and fights small powers. Then it is a great power, and fights great powers. Then it is a great power, and fights small powers, but pretends that they are great powers, in order to rekindle the ashes of its ancient emotion and vanity. After that, the next step is to become a small power itself.” G.K. Chesterton, The Fallacy of a Young Nation.
Chesterton was talking about someone else, but let’s take Crimean Peninsula as an example. We’ll skip the times of old Greeks, Romans, Scythians, and Sarmatians, and go straight to XVI Century, when Russia began its expansion towards Crimea – a prized land which then was called Crimean Khanate. The Khanate stood on her way to “Greeks” and posed a permanent threat to a key trade route. At this time Russian Imperial Eagle was still a fledgling, it just hatched out of Moscow Princedom. The final takeover will be completed in 1783. Before that, by Chesterton, it was small power vs. small power (although this takeover was a big slap to Turks, a real power behind the Khanate.) Since then Russian Empire grew into a power itself. The wars with equal powers on Crimean Peninsula ensued –Turkey, Britain, Third Reich – all had tried to take, nobody could hold it for long. Russia kept the prized land, although not for free, but over blood and bones of her children. Comparing to the bloodbaths of the past, including the terrors of Civil War of 1918-21 and genocide of Crimean Tatars uprooted by Stalin and in 48 hours thrown into wastelands of Kazakhstan in 1945, the latest annexation wasn’t even a skirmish, just a smooth correction of a cartographic lapse left on the map by Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev. Yet the question remains:
Can the latter takeover be read as a sign of Chesterton’s stage three? No, I don’t think so.
Will any territorial claim to Crimea be a casus belli with Russia? Yes, you bet it will!
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